March 29, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10: Kentucky, Heat, Materiality, Canes, Cats, tennis, Fish, Fins, cricket & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND. 

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 29. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Random Evidence notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Saturday, Heat in good hands, NCAAs, Miami Open, Cats alive, Miami-izing of ESPN Radio & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine (with new stuff from yesterday's Florida Derby).

Florida Derby: A close, controversial finish, a record betting handle -- the 64th Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park had it all. But did it have a special winner in Materiality? A horse that can challenge the Triple Crown drought? Click on Materiality's Burden for my column from the track. 

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat steady, Cats lose. Update entering SaturdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 33-39 (L1), 2 1/2 games from 6th with 10 games left (next tonight vs. Detroit). Heat playoff likelihood: 69.2% (down 3.8) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down in 10th place at 34-41 (L1) after last night's 4-3 OT loss at Montreal, 3 points from 9th and 4 points from 8th with 7 games left (next tonight at Ottawa). Cats playoff likelihood: 3.6% (down 0.8) per sportsclubstats.com.

HOT BUTTON MAR. 29: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Kentucky escapes as Elite Eight moves toward Final Four: No. 1 overall NCAA Tournament seed Kentucky survived Notre Dame last night (barely) and Wisconsin also advanced to Final Four. Now Louisville-Michigan State and Duke-Gonzaga take stage tonight. Irish didn't prove Kentucky can be beaten because close doesn't count. Quoting John Calipari, "We're unbeaten, not perfect."

2. HEAT: Team returns home as playoffs draw near: Miami, hosting Detroit this evening, seems a likely No. 7 playoff with 10 games left, which would mean facing LeBron James in first round. Meantime an ESPN panel ranked Heat second in NBA ownership, third in front office and sixth in coaching. San Antonio swept all three categories. Evidently that ESPN panel consisted entirely of Spurs fans.

3. HORSE RACING: Materiality wins Florida Derby: Huge crowd and a record betting handle festooned Saturday's 64th Florida Derby at Gulfstream, won by Materiality. This is when we begin to wonder if Materiality, starting May 2 in Kentucky Derby, can end the Triple Crown drought (and think sadly to ourselves, "Nah.") 

4. HURRICANES BASKETBALL: UM in NIT semifinals Tuesday: Miami faces Temple Tuesday night in an NIT semifinal, so at least Canes are making most out of missing the NCAAs. Game is at Madison Square Garden, which of course is nicknamed, "The World's Most Famous Arena Despite the Knicks."

5. PANTHERS: Next two games to define playoff hopes: Panthers, minus injured top scorer Nick Bjugstad, play tonight at Ottawa and Tuesday here vs. Boston -- the two teams Cats are chasing for final NHL playoff spot. Win both, and Cats have a shot. Lose either, and probably not. Playoff pressure doesn't always wait for the playoffs.

6. TENNIS: Miami Open at midpoint: Tennis’ "fifth major' runs through next weekend. The unexpected early ouster of No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova has been tournament’s biggest headline so far. Sharapova normally loses in the semifinals or final to career nemesis Serena Williams but apparently wanted to beat the rush this year and fast-track her inevitable elimination.

7. MARLINS: Cosart investigated for gambling: As Marlins wind down spring training with the season eight days away, pitcher Jarred Cosart is being investigated by MLB for gambling. Here's another gamble: Miami, despite high hopes, making the playoffs. 

8. UM FOOTBALL: Defense dominates Spring Game: Defense had four interceptions to lead UM's annual Spring Game but anybody saying "uh oh" about Brad Kaaya as result is a lunatic. Little in all of sports is a more pointless waste of money than college football teams practicing in March. Seriously.  

9. DOLPHINS: Free-agency season segues to pre-draft talk: Coach Joe Philbin this week said he hopes the team's transition to a new receiving corps "won't be too painful." Man that guy really knows how to rally the troops doesn't he!?:

10. CRICKET: Aussies win Cricket World Cup: One word. Crikey!

MADNESS: KENTUCKY SURVIVES; SIX GOES TO FOUR TONIGHT: No, I don't regret the previous headline, "Can we please stop pretending anybody can beat Kentucky?" Notre Dame almost did, last night, but when last I checked (sorry, Irish) almost didn't count. Both higher seeds (Wisconsin, too) won last night in the Elite Eight, so the March Madness Upset-o-Meter is now at 19.0 percent, with 11 upsets (based on seeds) in 58 games thus far. Tonight as we reach the Final Four, 1-Duke is a narrow favorite over 2-Gonzaga, but 7-Michigan State is a slight betting pick over 4-Louisville for the seed upset.

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March 28, 2015

It's a Super Sports Saturday in South Florida!; plus Heat in good hands, unbeatable Kentucky, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Miami Open, Cats alive, Miami-izing of ESPN Radio & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND. 

1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 28. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes in NIT semis with poll, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Jarred Cosart, Marlins odds, Dolphins draft, MLS/Miami, Haiku Challenge winner, Mavis Staples & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Turning awful into good: That racist fraternity video at the University of Oklahoma was awful, but the positive response of the Sooners football team reminds us of sports' power to involve itself in issues that matter. Click on Bigger Than Games for my latest column.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat fall, Cats still alive. Update entering SaturdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 33-39 (L1) after last night's 99-86 loss at Atlanta, 3 games from 6th with 10 games left (next Sunday vs. Detroit). Heat playoff likelihood: 73.0% (down 4.8) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 34-40 (W1), 3 points from 9th and 3 points from 8th with 8 games left (next tonight at Montreal). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.4% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

1aa1asupersatWELCOME TO SUPER SATURDAY: It's a Super Sports Saturday in South Florida. We have the 64th Florida Derby at Gulfstream (I'll be there columnizing). UM's football Spring Game is up at Lockhart Stadium. The Miami Open continues down on Key Biscayne, including Serena Williams' match delayed from Friday. The spring Marlins host Astros up in Jupiter. Panthers try to keep NHL playoff hope alive at Montreal. Oh, and the NCAA Tournament begins its Elite Eight with 1's Kentucky and Wisconsin both in play. That enough for you?

1aa1aheatbig3NBA EXPERTS VERIFY HEAT IN (VERY) GOOD HANDS: The Heat may have a losing record post-LeBron and looking like a playoff seventh-seed, but regard for the people running the franchise remains high.
An ESPN experts panel this week lists NBA owners, front office executives and head coaches, first to last, plus an overall ranking, and Miami shines. Heat is ranked second in ownership (Micky Arison), third in front office (Pat Riley), sixth in coach (Erik Spoelstra) and No. 3 overall, trailing only San Antonio and Golden State. (The Spurs swept all four categories). Riley, Arison and Spoelstra are pictured left to right, immortalized on canvas -- the Heat's real Big 3. 

CAN WE PLEASE STOP PRETENDING ANYBODY CAN BEAT KENTUCKY?: I cannot remember seeing a more lopsided game this deep into an NCAA Tournament than the 78-39 Kentucky rout of West 1aa1asweet16Virginia in the Sweet 16. The Mountaineers were awful, can't shoot straight, but it was KY's defense and size that preened. You hear analysts still speculating about who can beat Kentucky and how, but it's just an injection of false drama against the growing inevitability of John Calipari's Wildcats finishing as the sport's first unbeaten national champs since 1976. By the way all seven of eight higher-seeded teams won in the Sweet 16 round (all but Oklahoma), so the March Madness Upset-o-Meter is now at 19.6 percent, with 11 upsets (based on seeds) in 56 games thus far. (By the way, CBS and Turner report that TV ratings have been the highest for a Sweet 16 since 1991, and up 30 percent over last year. So Kentucky as flagship seems to be helping, not hurting). 

Poll result: UM in NIT semifinal is big deal, sort of: We asked if the Miami Hurricanes men's basketball team reaching the NIT semifinals (Canes face Temple on Tuesday) is a big, medium or minor deal. You voted big 42.7 percent, medium 40.2% and minor 17.1%.

MIAMI OPEN: SHARAPOVA FAST-TRACKS INEVITABLE ELIMINATION: No. 2-seed Maria Sharapova (pictured) losing to little-known Daria Gavrilova in the Battle of the Russian 'Ovas' became the 1aa1amariasfirst notable big news of the Miami Open on Key Biscayne. Typically Sharapova reaches the women's semifinals or even the finals before getting steamrolled by her career nemesis, Serena Williams. This year, it was as if she chose to concede early to that inevitable fate. Sharapova's unexpected early ouster and the fact Roger Federer isn't playing on the men's side robs the Miami Open of some luster.

CATS ALIVE! PANTHERS WITHIN THREE POINTS OF NHL PLAYOFF RANGE: Don't kick the Cats to the 1aa1abrandonpirricurb yet. Florida's 4-1 win at Toronto on Thursday led by two goals from Brandon Pirri (pictured) moved the Panthers within three points of Ottawa and fading Boston for the final Eastern playoff spot. Odds are still long but made better by the fact three of the team's eight remaining games are against the two teams they're chasing: Sunday at Ottawa, Tuesday at Boston, then April 9 against the Bruins here. May take a sweep of those three to get it done.

THE MIAMI-IZATION OF ESPN RADIO: Mr. Miami Dan LeBatard captains ESPN Radio's 4-7 p.m. national ship, and now the nighttime airwaves are going Miami, too. Starting this coming Monday, March 30, the reconfigured new 1aa1aespnradio
1aa1abomaninational lineup will feature "The Sedano Show" from 7-9 p.m., with Miami-raised Jorge Sedano, and then "The Right Time With Bomani Jones" (pictured) from 9-11, featuring the South Beach-living LeBatard protege who had been Dan's co-host on Wednesdays. (The LeBatard Show will audition several people to possibly replace Jones on Wednesdays). ESPN described Bomani's new show as "evocative." I think they probably meant "provocative," but let's not nitpick. David Roberts, ESPN Audio Network VP, rightly notes the lineup's diversity. LeBatard and Sedano are Hispanic; Jones and Freddie Coleman (on after Bomani) are black.

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March 17, 2015

March Madness Haiku Challenge! Got 17 syllables? Enter here, enter now!; plus Wade leads Heat past LeBron, Canes men miss on NCAAs, latest Hot Button Top 10, Heat/Panthers playoff update & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.


1aa1adaypatrick1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 17. Happy St. Patrick's Day! 2) I don't know if new Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills will be better than departed Mike Wallace. But I know this. Stills immediately immediately leads all of South Florida sports in hair. 3) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Mike Wallace traded with poll, NFL biggest-moves poll, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Marlins in fantasy, Canes hoops & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Wade's 32 lifts Miami in Return of LeBron II: [Click on The LeBron Effect for my column from last night's game] LeBron last night made his second return to Miami since jilting leaving the Heat to return to Cleveland, but the story was Dwyane Wade, with 32 points, leading an exhilirating 106-92 Heat win. Playing LeBron brings out the best in Wade and the Heat. "None of our guys had to look at a calendar to know who we were playing," as coach Erik Spoelstra put it.

NCAA Tournament odds: Kentucky of course is a near even-money favorite at 6-5, according to Bovada today. Then it's Arizona at 15-2, Wisconsin 17-2, Duke 9-1 and Villanova and Virginia both 10-1.

Me on podcast: I was invited to discuss Ndamukong Suh, Hassan Whiteside and the Marlins on the Cooper and Rupert podcast out of Los Angeles. Click here to listen. I'm on for 12 minutes starting at 35:00.

The Dolphins, for what's worth...: ...will select Louisville receiver DeVante Parker 14th overall in the first round, according to the latest CBSSports.com mock draft. MY comment: Signing Kenny Stills makes a first-round WR unlikely.

PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: Heat/Panthers status entering today/Tuesday: A daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 8th place at 30-36 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 7th with 16 games left (next Wednesday vs. Portland). Heat playoff likelihood: 48.3% (up 17.2) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 31-38 (L1), 1 point from 9th and 6 points from 8th with 13 games left (next tonight vs. Montreal). Cats playoff likelihood: 3.3% (down 0.2) per sportsclubstats.com.

IT'S BACK! IT'S OUR 10TH ANNUAL MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: Because, really, what captures America's mania over the NCAA Tournament and bracketeering better than ancient Japanese short-form poetry!? You know what a haiku is. It's a 17-syllable poem. (Not 16 and not 18!) Ideally it's in 1aa1ahaiku5-7-5 structure but we're loose with that. Our three rules are simple: 1. If your poem is 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament/March Madness/college hoops, we'll consider it a valid entry. 2. You may submit entries in the blog's 'Comments' section below OR email them to gcote@miamiherald.com, and you may enter as many haikus as you wish. 3. We'll accept entries starting Monday at 8 a.m. and ending Wednesday at 6 p.m., with the winner to be announced on Thursday. Last year's contest was won by reader Scott Vogelsberg. His winning entry: "Beware Ides of March * Et tu Brutus the Buckeye * Bubbles pop for all." The judging panel (that's me) appreciated the classic 5-7-5 phrasing, liked the nod to the Roman calendar, loved the link between Ohio State and Shakespeare, and also enjoyed the 1aa1adickievdouble entendre on bubbles popping. But you can do better! Prizes, you ask? The winner's grand prize will be the glory of victory, but we'll throw in something else. Maybe a Dolphins or Heat media guide? Maybe a sports book publishers send me that I don't read? Maybe a chance to visit the Dan LeBatard Show on a Tuesday we're in-studio? We'll figure something out. In any case, get your creative minds revved up. Remember, the entry window opens at 8 a.m. Monday.

DENIED!: HURRICANES MEN PASSED OVER FOR NCAA TOURNAMENT INVITE; UM WOMEN GET IN: The expert bracketologists had judged Miami likely to be on the wrong side of the bubble coming into Selection Sunday, and for Jim Larranaga's 21-12 Hurricanes the experts unfortunately were right. Miami was denied an at-large bid to the men's NCAA Tournament. It would have been a pleasant surprise more than a shock if UM made it, but the Canes were hurt by a mediocre RPI number and a 1-7 record vs. ranked teams. Now, instead of an eighth NCAA appearance, most recently 2013, Miami will settle for its 11th appearance in the NIT, most recently 2012. No. 2-seeded Miami will host North Carolina Central Tuesday at 7 p.m. Larranaga and UM fans can complain a little but not too much. Since starting the season 8-0 Miami was barely above .500 the rest of the way. Better news: Tonight, Katie Meier's UM women as expected were invited to their NCAAs.

Poll result: Mixed but lukewarm reviews for Wallace's Dolphins term: We asked if you thought Mike Wallace's two seasons with Miami were a success, pretty good,  barely OK or a failure, and it was 38.3 percent barely OK, 37.3% pretty good, 17.8% failure and 6.6% success. 

Poll result: Suh, Graham top NFL's biggest moves: We asked what have been NFL's biggest recent free-agency deals or trades and the top three among 12 choices were Ndamukong Suh to Dolphins with 34.4 percent, Jimmy Graham to Seahawks with 24.6% and Darrelle Revis to Jets with 11.1%.

HOT BUTTON MAR. 15: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins sign Ndamukong Suh, trade Mike Wallace: What a week in Finland! Starts with team signing DT Ndamukong Suh. Ends with Miami trading WR Mike Wallace and signing WR Kenny Stills and TE Jordan Cameron. Of course the big news was Suh. A terrific talent but one who often shows a propensity for unsportsmanlike conduct that has some calling him the league’s dirtiest player. But enough about the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside!

2. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Bubble burst. Canes denied NCAA: March Madness began with last night's Selection Sunday show setting the men’s NCAA Tournament field, with the women’s side coming today. As expected the Canes men narrowly missed and aettle for the NIT; the UM women might sneak in. The alternative, the NIT, should be called the NOT because it ain’t the NCAA.

3. HEAT: LeBron visits tonight as playoff chase continues: The Heat today are ninth in the East and just off playoff pace while awaiting a Monday visit by LeBron James’ Cavaliers — his second time back (first was Christmas) since leaving. Heat president Pat Riley said last week it remains “shocking to me that it happened.” C’mon, Pat. This is a “No Dwelling Zone.”

4. PANTHERS: Big loss has Cats running out of time to make postseason: Panthers lost to Rangers last night to end three-game win streak but remain six points from the final playoff seed with 13 games to play. The good news: Florida still has three games left against Boston, who it is chasing. The bad news: Even winning all three might not be enough.

5. AUTO RACING: Prost wins inaugural Miami ePrix: Nicolas Prost won as the first race of electric cars hummed through downtown Miami streets Saturday in one of 10 stops in the circuit's first season. It was really weird to see cars going that fast with no roar of engines. But no weirder than the only American in the race being a driver named Scott Speed.

6. MARLINS: Fish off to strong spring start: With spring training about one-third done, the Marlins sat atop the Grapefruit League standings with an 8-3 record after beating Detroit yesterday. Can we start the playoffs now?

7. NFL: Flurry of free agency moves, trades: With Miami doing its part, Jimmy Graham, Darrelle Revis, and DeMarco Murray were among the latest wave of NFL players to switch uniforms in the most active offseason in memory.
 
8. BASEBALL: MLB hints at future games in Cuba: New commissioner Rob Manfred expressed openness to playing exhibitions in Cuba if U.S. relations continue to warm. Hey don't blame me, Miami hard-liners. Unlike Ozzie, I don't like Fidel and never have!
 
9. TENNIS: Miami Open gears for next week's start: As Serena Williams ended her Indian Wells boycott, pro tennis shifts to Key Biscayne next week. This year's Miami Open will include a swimwear fashion show, pro beach volleyball tournament and “Taste of the Open” event with celebrity chefs. Reportedly there also will be tennis matches, time permitting.
 
10. BASKETBALL: NBA, NCAA agree to discourage early entries: The NBA and NCAA have agreed on a plan to discourage players from leaving school early for the pros. You knew it had gone too far when middle-school kids started sitting out NBA games because of acne.

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February 01, 2015

Super Bowl Sunday: Who's most likely to win MVP? New poll. Vote now!; plus new Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1. Happy new month and happy Super Bowl Sunday! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Bowl With a Smirk V, Bowl-vs.-baby poll & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Our Sunday offerings: Click on Bouncing Off the Shield for my Super Bowl special-section column on how the NFL's massive popularity withstands all manner of scandal and controversy that come its way. And click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes column, leading with (what else?) the Super Bowl.

SUPER BOWL MVP DERBY: Some time around 10 tonight somebody will be raising the Super Bowl MVP trophy. Who's your money on? The four players listed -- alphabetically in this poll -- are the four betting favorites to win it. Take a dip in our poll and say why you voted as you did.

HOT BUTTON FEB. 1: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. SUPER BOWL: It’s Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl as America parties: “Geez, I hope I bought enough booze and snacks for the party. Can’t wait to see the latest Budweiser ad! Hey, I wonder what Katy Perry’s first song will be? What’s that? The game? Oh, yeah. I’ll be watching the Patriots and Seahawks play, but mainly because it leads to the next commercial.”

2. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: National Signing Day looms for UM, others: National Signing Day, sort of the college equivalent of NFL Draft, is Wednesday, and ESPN’s early rankings have Al Golden’s latest Miami recruiting class rated 20th nationally. Perpetually dissatisfied UM fans are unsure whether that’s pretty good so they plan to err on the side of disappointment and complaint.

3. HEAT: Wade’s latest injury adds to (mostly) sour season: Dwyane Wade’s hamstring likely will sideline him a few weeks, including the Feb. 15 All-Star Game. This will be the fourth season in a row Wade plays fewer than 70 games as Miami fights to stay on playoff pace. The one positive has been Hassan Whiteside. New name: Hassan Brightside.

4. HURRICANES BASKETBALL: Let’s find out how good UM men’s basketball really is: The Canes were back in polls at No. 23 then lost at home to mediocre Georgia Tech. Now they face big test today at rival FSU then home Tuesday against No. 10 Louisville. We still need to know how good UM really is. More important, so does the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

5. TENNIS: Championship weekend at the Australian Open: No. 1-seeded Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray today in the men’s final of the yhear's first major after Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova for the women’s crown — making Williams 17-2 head-to-head in their lopsided rivalry. Can excellence be boring? In the case of predictable tennis, yes.

6. NFL: Rodgers wins MVP, Seau leads Hall class: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers won league MVP and Junior Seau led an eight-man Hall of Fame Class announced Saturday. Seau played three years for the Dolphins. Hey, the way this franchise has been lately, we'll take success-by-minimal-association.

7. UM FOOTBALL: Canes at FSU Oct. 10: Miami's football schedule came out and the Oct. 10 game at Florida State is the one circled in red. Perpetualy disgruntled UM fans already are looking into a small-plane rental and a Fire-Golden banner in anticipation of a loss. 

8. MARLINS: Team makes it official with Ichiro: A front-office contingent flew to Japan to make official with Ichiro. He's in his 15th year in the U.S. and still speaks though an interpreter, but maybe coming to Miami will finally encourage him to learn our language. Spanish, I mean.

9. PANTHERS: Cats will need luck to catch playoff spot: Florida stands ninth in the jockeying for eight NHL playoff spots in the East, but is a big eight points off pace. That's thin ice. 

10. GOLF: Tiger Woods flames out in year's first event: Tiger Woods drew record crowds to the Phoenix Open but then flamed out with a career-worst 82 to begin his PGA Tour schedule. Bad luck lately for Tiger. Last week: Missing tooth. This week: Missing cut.

HALL OF FAME VOTING BY JERRY JONES: Jimmy Johnson keeps getting barred at the door of the Pro 1aa1ajjx2Football Hall of Fame. Can't get past the bouncer. Keeps saying, "Don't you know who I am" and it does no good. I think, in Johnson's case, the room of voters must be commandeered by his former Cowboys owner-turned-enemy, Jerry Jones. (The two are pictured in happier times). Of the five modern-era player selections on Saturday, I thought Junior Seau, Will Shields and Tim Brown were obvious. Jerome Bettis and Charles Haley were (very) borderline. Voters were in a generous mood.

Poll result: Sherman should choose Bowl over baby: We asked about Seahawk Richard Sherman's dilemma and decision whether to play in today's Super Bowl or attend the birth of his first child if that occurs. Most of you (72.2 percent) said he should play in the game.

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December 08, 2014

Philbin vs. Harbaugh: The Dolphins coach-poll. Vote!; plus 'I Can't Breathe', Canes in Homophobe Bowl, Panthers trump Heat, Elton falling off chair & more

1aa1alebronshirt1) It is WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 109. LeBron James wears 'I Can't Breathe' t-shirt during warmups in honor of New York City choke-hold victim Eric Garner. 2) This week marked 34th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. R.I.P. to a music legend,  missed still. 3) See previous blogpost for results of our latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter poll. (Not pretty). 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins lose to Baltimore, DSM poll & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Everywhere you look, Dolphins collapsing: Click on Collapse for my column from the stadium off Sunday's Miami loss to Baltimore. The gist: Offense, defense, playoff hopes, Joe Philbin's future ... everywhere you looked Sunday, the Dolphins were collapsing.

DOLPHINS COACHING SITUATION: THE POLL: [Note: Poll closes around noon today because we'll have a new blogpost by early afternoon] They say timing is everything in polls. If so, then this poll 1aa1ajimh
1aa1ajoep
is admittedly unfair or at least disadvantageous for Joe Philbin, coming so soon after Miami's most damaging (see below) loss of the season. Nevertheless I trust my readers to take a step back and a deep breath and see the big picture, the body of work and the playoff possibility that remains with three games left -- not just yesterday's disappointment. I also invite you to consider the likeliest replacement's off-putting-to-some personality that is largely why he almost certainly won't be back with San Francisco. All things considered, vote and say why you feel as you do.

Quantifying Dolphins' tumbling playoff shot: The impact of the 28-13 home loss to Baltimore? This morning, Miami stands ninth in the jockeying for six AFC playoffs spots, including tiebreakers. Last week Fins were No. 6. This morning, makenflplayoffs.com puts Miami's postseason likelihood at 14.9 percent. Last week it was 33.5%.

PANTHERS HAVING BETTER SEASON THAN HEAT: I've been waiting a long, long time to be able to 1aa1acatsheatwrite that headline. Just to see what it looked like in print. Sure enough, now is the time. The hockey Panthers are 11-15 having won four of past seven games to move into playoff pace, while the Heat are 9-11 after four straight losses thanks to some of the worst defense in the NBA. Even sans LeBron, we did not expect this from the Heat. Nor did we expect the playoff season that now seems possible for the Cats.

FIVE BOWLS THAT SORT OF INTEREST ME OTHER THAN THE PLAYOFF GAMES: The two Jan. 1 College Football Playoff games -- 1-Alabama vs. 4-Ohio State and 2-Oregon vs. 3-Florida State, plus the championship game that follows -- are all that really matter. But there are 36 other bowl games for the 72 schools that weren't top-four and yet are trying to convince themselves they had a good season anyway. Here are the five that interest me at least a little bit:

1aa1aduckDuck Commander Independence Bowl (Dec. 27, Shreveport, La.): Miami (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6) -- Two disappointing .500 teams that hoped to be in a (much) bigger bowl) are instead relegated to a bowl sponsored by the company run by "Duck Dynasty" reality-TV homophobe Phil Robertson (pictured). Fun! Because the Hurricanes are involved, I am interested by obligation. Beyond that, a game between 6-6 teams is Exhibit A for why there are too many bowls.

Capital One Orange Bowl (Dec. 31, Dolphin stadium): No. 7 Mississippi State (10-2) vs. No. 12 Georgia Tech (10-3) -- Could be a good game. But does anybody outside of these two fandoms care even a little? Another game that interests me only by proximity and obligation.

Birmingham Bowl (Jan. 3, Birmingham Ala.): Florida (6-5) vs. East Carolina (8-4) -- Any luck working up excitement for this, Gator fans? At least it offers the storyline of new coach Jim McElwain's debut.

Miami Beach Bowl (Dec. 22, Marlins Park): Brigham Young (8-4) vs. Memphis (9-3) -- A blah matchup but a new bowl in an interesting venue. Giancarlo Stanton on the opening coin flip is a must, no?

Boca Raton Bowl (Dec. 23, FAU Stadium): Marshall (12-1) vs. Northern Illinois (11-2) -- Another new South Florida bowl, and this one gets what could be a fun, explosive game.

Honorable mention: Texas Christian vs. Ole Miss in the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta, only to see if TCU players will be wearing black armbands to protest being passed over for the four-team playoff.

1aa1aeltonfallELTON JOHN FALLING OFF A CHAIR: Happened on Sunday at a tennis event at Royal Albert Hall in London. Knowing the 67-year-old pop star is OK, it's funny. Click here to watch. Many will recall Elton's big hits including "Don't Let the Chair Go Down On Me," "Goodbye Yellow Broke Chair" and "Don't Go Breaking My Chair." 

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October 21, 2014

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 80.7%; plus Fins, hot Tannehill win in Chicago 27-14; also new Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is MONDAY, OCTOBER 20. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Noles edge Irish and other collball, Royals-Giants WS poll, NFL Week 7 picks, Jameis Winston verdict, Chelsea showers & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Dolphins-Bears gameblog and postgame report directly below latest DSM poll.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G6: Results are in on the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 80.7 percent overall satisfaction -- the highest level since the season opener -- in the wake of Sunday afternoon's 27-14 victory at Chicago putting Miami's season record at 3-3. 1aa1adsmThe DSM, in its seventh season, is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 8:45 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2014 DSM results

G1: 96.4% (following 33-20 victory vs. New England)

G2: 12.2% (following 29-10 loss at Buffalo)

G3: 2.0% (following 34-15 loss vs. Kansas City)

G4: 62.3% (following 38-14 victory vs. Oakland in London)

G5: 14.2% (following 27-24 loss vs. Green Bay)

G6: 80.7% (following 27-14 victory at Chicago)

Next poll: Oct. 26 (following game at Jacksonville)

G6: DOLPHINS 27, CHICAGO 14: TANNEHILL, DEFENSE IN CHARGE: Final: Huge road win bringing MIA to 3-3, led by Ryan Tannehill, who completed his first 14 passes and finished 25-32 for 277 yards, two TDs and 123.6 rating. Excellent. Eight receivers with two-plus catches. And Tanny adds 48 yards rusing from read-option runs to lead a 137-yard ground attack. Defensively Miami wins turnover war 3-0 and dominates in time of possession 37  minutes to 23. All around Miami's best end-to-end performance of the season. ..... Fourth quarter: Defensive stop clinches it for Miami! ... MIA 27-14 on 19-yard FG just outside 2-minute warning, after Charles Clay holding penalty wipes away Miller TD run. ... Jamar Taylor bad pass interference penalty cost MIA 39 yards, leads directly to 1-yard Forte TD run as Bears within 24-14 with 7:38 to play. ... Fins muff FG try set up by Starks, waste chance. Kick was partially blocked. ... Cortland Finnegan knocks ball from Brandon Marshall, Randy Starks recovers. Third takeaway for MIA defense. ... Fins 24-7 on 32-yard FG after Cam Wake sack/fumble recovery sets up team at CHI 16. ..... Third quarter: MIA 21-7 on 2-yard Lamar Miller TD run after Tannehill 30-yard run on 4th down made it 1st and goal. Huge for Fins to answer CHI's TD and keep momentum. ... Matt Forte 10-yard scoring pass from Cutler puts Da Bears right back in game. ..... Halftime: Miami thoroughly dominated half and probably should be ahead more than 14-0. Tannehill superb at 14-for-15, 176 yards, 2 TDs. Been sacked four times, though, about the only negative for Fins in half. ..... Second quarter: Wallace 10-yard TD catch makes good use of Jones' INT. Tannehil now 10-for-10 for 136 yards, two TDs. Man! ... He's baa-aaack. Reshad Jones intercepts Cutler, returns ball 49 yards. ... Sturgis pushes a 50Y FG try wide right. This is an average NFL kicker, not a good one. That 3rd-down sack cost Miami three points. ..... First quarter: Fins 7-0 with first 1Q TD since Game 1, a 13-yard Tannehill strike to TE Charles Clay. Of course it was Clay. I benched him on my fantasy team today! ..... Original post: One of the mysteries and intrigues of today's 1 p.m. game is that "Dolphins at Chicago" is one of the most rare phrases in the Dolfan lexicon. This marks only the club’s fifth visit to Soldier Field, following earlier trips in 1975, 1988, 1991 and 1aa1achimia2006. (With apologies to the superstitious, Fins did not make the playoffs any of the four previous seasons they played in Chicago). Joey Harrington pitched for Miami when last the Dolphins ventured into Soldier Field. I’d fancy Jay Cutler over Ryan Tannehill in the duel of present-day arms. That’s mostly because Cutler’s targets, ex-Fin Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, have a combined 11-inch height advantage over Dolphin mini-corners Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan. Also, Tannehill is 0-4 with six picks in career road games vs. NFC teams, and he could face a bunch of third-and-longs if Chitown’s run-D is as stout today as it has been the past few weeks. I also wonder how Miami will respond after last week’s last-second, sort-of-blew-it heartbreak loss. (Here comes the “but.”) But the Soldier has hardly been magic lately for the Bears. Chicago, a mere 3 1/2-point favorite, is 0-2 at home this season, and is 1-10-1 against the spread in the past 12 home games. This is a huge swing game for Miami, with lousy Jacksonville on deck. Win today to go 3-3 and playoff hopes will be rekindled. Lose to go 2-4 and a here-we-go-again pall will revisit. Alas, I see the latter as likelier. My pick: Chicago, 23-20.

Poll result: Royals dominate World Series rooting interest: We asked un the previous blogpost who you hope wins the World Series, and it was 78.6 percent for the Royals and 21.4% for the Giants. 

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our Random Evidence Sunday notes-column package has returned in print from summer hiatus (click HERE for today's latest edition), but due to semi-popular demand an updated, expanded Hot Button continues as an exclusive Sunday feature of the blog. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. Dolphins: Miami makes rare visit to Soldier Field: Today marks only team's fifth visit to Chicago and only second since 1991. Will we see Good Fins or Bad Fins? Any Dolfan confident in the answer is probably lying to himself.

2. College football: FSU, Winston survive Notre Dame: As we await the firing of Gators coach Will Muschamp, Florida State and embattled QB Jameis Winston survived last night in Tallahassee, 31-27, when a last-second Notre Dame TD was nullified by a penalty. Luck o' the Irish ... not. 

3. Hurricanes: UM readies for Va-Tech after short bye: Miami prepares to face Virginia Tech this Thursday night in Blacksburg. UM was off this week but the bye rushed for 318 yards against the beleaguered Canes' run defense.

4. World Series: It's Royals vs. Giants starting Tuesday: Best thing about matchup? Contrast in SF having won two recent WS titles and KC in its first postseason since 1985. Worst thing? Maudlin media rehashing on 25th anniversary of '89 World Series earthquake in San Fran.

5. Heat: Countdown 10 days 'til season opener: Miami is 2-4 in preseason with two exhibitions left after winning in San Antonio yesterday despite Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng all sitting. Which pretty much tells you how significant preseason results are.

6. Panthers: Cats on road seeking second win: Florida has won only once and scored a league-low five goals in the first five games of the NHL schedule. Bad sign when you're two weeks in and it already seems like a long season. 

7. NASCAR: Elimination day in Chase: Today at Talladega the Chase for the Cup field will be reduced from 12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of the drivers in jeopardy of being eliminated, despite the wishes of televising network ESPN.

8. Tennis: Official suspended over Williams slur: The WTA has suspended a Russian Tennis Federation official who referred to Serena and Venus Williams as "brothers" and called them "scary to look at." If only he'd have said "scary to play," nobody would have argued.

9. Biogenesis: Bosch pleads guilty: Anthony Bosch, founder of the Coral Gables "anti-aging clinic" that funneled PEDs to Alex Rodriguez and others, pleaded guilty and faces sentencing. Bosch was only doing his part to keep Cooperstown quaint by keeping the population down.

10. Politics: Gubernatorial Fangate: The Florida gubernatororial debate between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist was delayed when Scott briefly boycotted over Crist's use of a small cooling fan. The irony? Based on the low approval and trust ratings for both men, I'm not either have many fans.

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August 31, 2014

Rate my fantasy draft. Annual poll. Vote now!; plus UM, Fins, Wade wedding star in new Hot Button Top 10; also U-Bird, FIU-Herald verdict & more

1) It is SUNDAY, AUGUST 31. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): FIU opens vs. Miami Herald with poll, Dolphins cuts, Dwyane Wade's wedding, Upset Bird Countdown, SOPY, Ikea & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1aaflacduckUPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 5 DAYS: The Upset Bird and I launch our 24th season of 1aa1abird5NFL Friday Page predictions in the Miami Herald in 5 days, on Sept. 5. To celebrate we have a daily countdown honoring notable fictional birds of different species. Today (following NBA New Orleans' Pierre the Pelican), we welcome the Aflac Duck, who since 2000 has successfully peddled insurance. Main attribute: Far less annoying than Flo from Progressive.

RATE MY FANTASY DRAFT:  My eight-team friends 'n family fantasy football league held its draft earlier 1aa1afantasytoday and I invite you (as I do every year) to rate what you think is the best team, or the one you'd most like to have, based on each team's first three picks. I know that's tough but who said life was fair? Which trio would you most like to start a team with? It's a PPR (point-per-reception) league hosted  by ESPN. Teams in the poll are listed in the draft order. This is a blind list so you don' know which team is mine, but of course I'll tell you later. My draft. Now your verdict. Vote and say why.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our Random Evidence Sunday notes-column package has returned in print from summer hiatus (click here for today's latest edition), but due to broad disinterest popular demand an expanded Hot Button continues as a Sunday feature of the blog. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. UM football: Kaaya leads Canes at Louisville Monday: True freshman Brad Kaaya, son of a 1980s B-film actress, starts for UM in national-stage game that concludes college Week 1. Canes fans hoping the genes extend and that Brad, cast as a great quarterback, is convinging in the role.

2. Dolphins: Ready or not, here comes Patriots, NFL season: After 3-1 preseason, Miami opens schedule next Sunday vs. rival New England. Recent ESPN poll of league insiders ranked Bill Belichick the NO. 1 coach and Joe Philbin 29th. On the plus side, Joe is a snappier dresser.

3. NFL: Fins, others reduce rosters to 53: Rams released openly gay Michael Sam, while in Miami the only real notable cuts were RB Donald Thomas and kick returner Marcus Thigpen. Exit of Thomas, former 2nd-round pick, another reminder how good former GM Jeff Ireland wasn't.

4. Dwyane Wade: Heat star's not-so-secret wedding: Wade and actress Gabrielle Union wed Saturday night at Chateau Artison, an island castle in Redland in southwest Miami-Dade. Was supposed to be top secret, but never a good sign when the confidentiality agreement guests had to sign is leaked to TMZ.

5. College football: Noles escape, Gators don't play: No. 1 Florida State and Jameis "Crab Legs" Winston escaped Oklahoma State, 37-31, while in Gainesville, lightning forced a postponement of Florida's opener vs. Idaho. "I never liked the Gators," explained God.

6. Marlins: Playoff hopes slim, getting slimmer: Fish slipped to 5 1/2 games out of wild-card chase entering today's game. Are we still pretending they're sort of alive? I mean, I guess you can still Miami's playoff hopes, but it now requires a Hubble telescope.

7. Team USA: American hoops on stage in FIBA World Cup: Top NBA star like LeBron James and Kevin Durant are sitting out the FIBA World Cup, but U.S. swamped Finland anyway Saturday, 114-55, and plays Turkey today. Soon the U.S. may face a country where they actually play basketball.

8. NFL: League gets tough on domestic violence: It's now a minimum six-game suspension for first offense and lifetime ban for a second. Ironically, the tougher penalties for physical violence happened because commissioner Roger Goodell got beat up in the media.

9. FIU: School picks a fight with Miami Herald: Athletic director Pete Garcia refused a credential for the Herald's FIU beat writer, so the Herald declined to cover the team. That means FIU lost twice Saturday, once to Bethune-Cookman, and once to common sense. 

10 (tie). NASCAR: Stewart back on track after tragedy: Tony Stewart races today for first time since Aug. 9 tragedy in which he struck and killed a sprint-car driver. Wonder if Stewart's legion of haters will break down and actually sort of almost be rooting for him?

10 (tie). Tennis: U.S. Open at midway point: Been a few upsets as usual, but major tennis remains our most predctable sport. As long as Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Serena Williams are still alive in the U.S. Open, we have our eventual winners.

Poll result: Herald has broad support in feud with FIU: The Miami Herald is declining to cover FIU football because the school denied a credential to its beat reporter. We asked who you side with and the Herald won with 81.6 percent.

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June 23, 2014

LeBron's Heat opt-out was expected, is not ominous; plus me amid USA soccer nuts, World Cup-interest poll, Pouncey, Venus Williams naked & more

1) It is TUESDAY, JUNE 24. No radio today. The Dan Le Batard Show is on vacation, so you get a break from me, too. 2) Congrats to Neal Gulkis, new media-relations guy at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Was with Dolphins for many years. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Futbol! World Cup and U.S. draw with Portugal, debut of Sunday Hot Button Top 10, Heat get-a-grip poll result & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

My new column on LeBron's opt-out: Click The Fight Is On for my column on LeBron James' future in the wake of his opting out of his Heat contract today. It's newly online and shipping to Wednesday's inky pulp editions. 

1aa1alebronjLEBRON'S OPT-OUT EXPECTED, NOT AS OMINOUS AS IT SOUNDS: LeBron James' agent informed the Heat this morning that his client will opt out of his Miami contract and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. This is not a surprise; club president Pat Riley called it "fully expected" in a statement released at about 1:15 p.m. This development therefore should not send Heat fans to a high ledge. As for the haters and overreactors, James had every right to do this and it should not be taken as a sign he's leaving. Yes, it could mean he is serious about testing free agency and possibly leaving for another team. But the opt-out could also be more of a procedural thing, a first step toward restructuring his deal for less money in concert with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to remain together. This is a fight Miami can and should win -- as long as Pat Riley convinces LeBron his supporting cast will be stronger than the one that fell short in 2014.  

FUTBLOG! WATCHING U.S.-PORTUGAL IN THE BELLY OF THE INSANITY: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, a continually updated daily dose of the month-long soccer spectacle in Brazil. See 1aa1abrazilwcearlier posts for earlier daily results and for group-by-group preview. I watched Sunday evening's 2-2 U.S. draw with Portugal at Mickey Byrnes Irish Pub in downtown 1aa1abyrnesHollywood, in a bar more crowded than anywhere I have been. (Relegated to runnerup: Bourbon Street at the apex of Mardi Gras). The photo at left does not convey the insane population density in the place. Fire codes were surely shattered. Waitresses carrying trays of beer and shots and food could barely navigate through the crush. Check me on Twitter or Vine for several videos from the game/party and for a great sense of the noise and atmosphere. I'd gone at the invitation of my son and some of his friends, not knowing what I was in for. Turns out it was the official watch party of the local chapter of American Outlaws, a U.S. soccer fan group. I mean, I was at ground zero of fanaticism for this team, this game, this sport, this World Cup. The place was a sea of red, white and blue. I and others stood on bench seats for a better view. Beer sprayed in celebration at U.S. goals. Chants erupted throughout the game. Some guys near us recognized me and started serenading my joke chant, "Let's gooooooo States!" (Which I must say was both a cheap thrill and excruciatingly embarrassing at the same time). I'm a lifelong soccer fan and a patriotic guy so this was right in my wheelhouse. I wore a U.S. soccer shirt and U.S. hat I'd bought while covering the 1994 World Cup held here. My voice today is hoarse from all the cheering. There is no wrong way to be a fan. But I must say, if you were watching the game with a couple of buds at your house, you were not getting the full experience. All of us though were denied the ultimate celebration by Portugal's tying goal with 39 seconds left. All of Mickey Byrnes Irish Pub sagged, went numb. Nevertheless, it was inspiring to be there amid the passion, to get a real feel for the grass roots of U.S. soccer fans, and to understand that thousands of watch parties just like this one were going on all over the country.

U.S. scenarios to advance: The U.S. would have clinched a spot in the round of 16 by winning last night but still is in good shape even with the draw. Click on Road to the Sweet 16 for all the scenerios involved. America advances with a win or draw vs. Germany this Thursday. We can also advance with a loss if Portugal-Ghana tie or by winning the goals-differential tiebreaker with the Portugal-Ghana winner. Computer odds for tghe group put Germany's likelihood to advance at 99.7 percent and the U.S. at 75.8%. Ghana is at 19.1% and Portugal 5.4%.

HOW CLOSELY ARE YOU FOLLOWING THE U.S. IN THE WORLD CUP?: This poll result interests me for two reasons. First, this is in no way a soccer blog. For all I know there might be a lot of readers wishing we'd get off this soccer thing and get back to the Dolphins or Heat or something more in their mainstream. Second, soccer in general shows a great divide in interest. Fans tend to be passionately interested, as with the crowd I describe in the top item here, or barely if at all paying attention. Although, the World Cup tends to draw even soccer agnostics into paying at least casual attention. I'm curious where you stand and where our blog readers in general stand on this. Vote and say why.


1aa1acostaricaWorld Cup Day 13 / Today 6-24: Match of Day: C
osta Rica 0, England 0 (Group D): The Brits are the latest big team to be sent packing as -- astonishingly -- Costa Rica's Los Ticos win the group. You wanted a Cinderella, World Cup? You got one.

Uruguay 1, Italy 0 (Group D): Italy the latest big club sent packing, playing with 10 men and yielding a goal in 81st minute. But Uruguayan star Luis Suarez faces possible suspension for biting incident.

Colombia 4, Japan 1 (Group C): Colombian storm into roudn of 16.

Greece 2, Cote d'Ivoire 1 (Group C): Big letdown for Team Cote.

World Cup scoring statistics after today's play: 40 matches, 117 goals, 2.93 per.

1aa1amexfansDay 12 / 6-23: Match of Day: Mexico 3, Croatia 1 (Group A): Credit to Mexico. El Tri needed at least a draw to advance to the round of 16 but left no doubt with a three-goal flurry within 10 minutes. Mexican fans are easy to dislike with their homophobic chants, but I respect that their team was fortunate to even qualify for the World Cup but is now making the most of it. 

Netherlands 2, Chile 0 (Group B): Dutch continue impressive Cup run, win their group.

Spain 3, Australia 0 (Group B): Defending champ  Spain alreday had been eliminated but save a bit of face with this result.

Brazil 4, Cameroon 1 (Group A): OK, Brazil looks like Brazil again.; Croatia vs. Mexico (Group A).

MIKE POUNCEY'S TAILSPIN: The Dolphins center had hip surgery today and is expected to miss at least the first two games of the regular season. The injury is just the latest. Pouncey was a figure in last year's Bullygate mess, embarrassed himself with a related Tweet, and was photographed wearing a hat in support of accused murderer Aaron Hernandez. Above and beyond this injury, I wonder about his decision making. I wonder if he is just coming into the prime of a Pro Bowl-caliber career, or if we have seen his best and can expected a flameout. That may be harsh. Let's find out.

1aa1avenusnakedHEY, LOOK. IT'S VENUS WILLIAMS. AND SHE'S NAKED!: ESPN The Magazine's annual 'Body' issue hits newsstands July 11, and the WorldWide Leader commenced pimping it today by revealing (literally) that tennis star Venus Williams will be among the athletes carefully baring all without actually baring any private parts. Here, in all her artfully displayed splendor, is Venus.

 

1aa1amichmitchHEAT DRAFT PROJECTIONS: ESPN's NBA draft guru Chad Ford has a two-round projection for this week's open meat market and his picks for the Heat are Michigan power forward Mitch McGary, pictured (1st round, 26th overall) and Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson (2nd round, 55th overall). 

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June 01, 2014

Predict Heat-Spurs NBA Finals. Who wins and in how many? Poll. Vote!; plus my 'orange jumpsuit' regret, Marino/Kelly, jilted Wozniacki & more

1) It is MONDAY, JUNE 2. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with Heat-Pacers. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Spurs-or-Thunder poll, Heat-Pacers Game 6, vote Stanton, Dolphins forecast, Scout Willis & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

HEAT-SPURS FINALS REMATCH: SAME RESULT, OR DIFFERENT?: The NBA prepares for its first Finals rematch since Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls met (and twice beat) Karl Malone's Utah Jazz in 1997-98. 1aa1anbafinals 1aa1alenduncCan the Heat repeat for a three-peat? The oddsmakers doubt it. Miami is a 3 1/2-point underdog for Thursday night's Game 1 in San Antonio, and generally a narrow underdog in the series -- although Las Vegas Hilton and a few other sports books have the betting odds dead even. It should stay close, with the Spurs' superior record and home-court advantage offsetting Miami's double-champion pedigree. San Antonio has the revenge factor -- "We'll do it this time," said Tim Duncan -- and also is seen as a tough matchup for Miami, which may not have the low-post presence to contend with Duncan, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw. The Spurs also have been shooting well from 3-point range this postseason.But do you really ewant to underestimate LeBron James and Miami's chase at history. We've done this poll before every round. How do you expect the NBA Finals to turn out? Not what you hope but what you honestly predict. Vote and say why.

Poll results: Heat fans wanted Thunder, not Spurs: We asked in the previous blogpost and 59.2 percent preferred Miami face Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals, versus 40.8% who preferred San Antonio. Notably, the vote for OKC was running closer to 70-30, but votes for San Antonio flooded in once the Spurs won last night to clinch a spot in the Finals.

I WAS WRONG ON 'ORANGE JUMPSUIT' REFERENCE: A quick backgrounder for those unaware. My column off the Heat's clinching Game 6 win over Indiana the other night spent a good deal of time eviscerating the Pacers' Lance Stephenson for his dirty play and buffoonish antics, and the column included the following paragraph: "Stephenson’s egregiously dirty streetball gives one the impression that if his skills hadn’t put him in NBA clothes, his uniform by now might be an orange jumpsuit, county-issue." It was one sentence, low in the column, but it was seen as racially charged in a way I did not intend. I initially stood behind what I wrote against a backlash on Twitter, but upon reflection I was wrong to make the orange-jumpsuit reference and wish I had not. I say this not because my boss ordered me to or because of any Tweeted outcry, but because I realized I'd made an assumption about Stephenson that made me uncomfortable defending. Neither Stephenson's behavior in the Heat series nor his past off-court incidents, including a charge he threw his girlfriend down a flight of stairs, justifies a presumption he might be in jail if not in the NBA. The fact I'd have made the same reference to a white player who had that history and behaved like that in the series also does not justify the presumption. Anybody who has done what I do for a living for this long has been guilty of an occasional lapse in judgment. For me, this was one.

1aa1amarino visitMARINO VISITS KELLY: Once, rivals. Now, old friends, one reaching out to the other. Former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino visited former Bills counterpart Jim Kelly in the hospital Sunday as Kelly continues to battle oral cancer and undergo radiation treatment in upstate New York. Click here for a brief video. Pictured, Marino with Kelly in the hospital. (Howard Schnellenberger, Kelly's old UM coach, and ex-Bills GM Bill Polian also were visiting Kelly on Sunday).

1aa1acarolineCAROLINE ON THE REBOUND: Dumped unceremoniously by fiance golfer Rory McIlroy in a brief phone call, jilted tennis star Caroline Wozniacki bounced back impressively on Saturday with some fun on the sands of Miami Beach. Nice touch on the 'Lover' T, too. Her throwing motion may be somehwat suspect but (Mildly Sexist Comment Alert) her form otherwise seems quite good, actually. Rory, Rory, Rory. Quick aside: My son and I, over golf on Sunday (96 at Davie Golf Club to his 87), were discussing how Rory had dropped Caroline after wedding invitations already had gone out, in a move so sudden and unexpected that Caroline at first thought the phone call was a joke. My in-his-20s son was defending Rory. Drawing on experience, I suggested he deftly omit his defense of Rory should the topic of the breakup ever happen to arise in a conversation with his girlfriend. Fore!

THE LIST: MLB DIVISION RACES: The Marlins' division, the NL East, is the most competitive in baseball this season, based on fewest combined games behind (CGB) the frontrunner, entering Monday's games:

Division        CGB (2nd)

NL East        16.5 (3.0)

AL Central    22.5 (4.5)

AL East        24.5 (3.5)

AL West       28.5 (4.5)

NL Central    31.0 (4.0)

NL West       42.0 (7.5)

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January 01, 2014

What was biggest Miami/South Florida sports story of 2013? New poll. Vote now!; plus Jeff Fireland, Cote's Top 10 New Year's resolutions & more

1aa1a20141) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 2. I'm back in the Friday Page Dungeon today divining my NFL first-round playoff predictions. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins who-to-fire poll, D.Wade's surprise child & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird), Vine (Greg Cote) and Facebook (Greg Cote).

A message from me to you: To all our readers, longtime and recent, print and online, to our Blog Family, radio listeners and followers on Twitter, Instagram and Vine ... thank you! You made it a great past year and make me look forward to 2014.

WHAT WAS MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA'S BIGGEST SPORTS STORY OF 2013?: We asked you previously to name the past year's top national sports story and you did (results below). Now we invite you to select the 2013 Miami/South Florida sports story of the year, from an alphabetically presented top 10 of my choosing. You may vote for your top three (3). I offer no synopsis beyond what's in the poll, because if it needs further explaining, it obviously wasn't that big/impactful/important to you. Remember, you can choose your top three. Ready? Vote!

Mea culpa: One glaring poll omission: As many of you are pointing out, the above poll is missing UM's ACC championship and NCAA Tournament run in men's basketball. That's my fault all the way; it just slipped between the cracks. Doubt it would have threatened the top vote-getters here, but it absolutely should have been in the poll. Sorry, Jim Larranaga! (I also could well have included either of two international soccer matches that drew huge crowds to Dolphins stadium).

MARATHON BOMBINGS TOP NATIONAL STORY: You voted from a list of The Associated Press' top 10 national sports stories of 2013, and your clear top three were the Boston Marathon bombings (30.9%), the Heat's second straight NBA title (19.6%) and the Aaron Hernandez arrest (15.8%). (I had the same top three). Others in order were Lance Armstrong admits to doping; NFL $765 million concussion settlement; Red Sox win World Series; Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax; Baseball/A-Rod PED scandal; Ravens win Super Bowl; and Auburn football resurgence.

1aa1fripixNFL PIX / WEEK 16: ENDING STRONG: Hectic holiday time to blame (again) for posting this a couple of days later than usual... NFL predix: Went a nifty 13-3 overall and a just-as-buoyant 10-5-1 against the spread to end our regular season. Where was this all year? On to the playoffs with a tailwind of mo'!

Poll result: Ireland, Sherman bear brunt of Dolfan frustration: Dolfans want change in the wake of the late-season collapse and I asked in the previous blogpost who they'd most like to fire (if anyone). The bull's-eye was on GM Jeff Ireland (53.6%) and offensive chief Mike Sherman (23.6%). Objection was mild toward coach Joe Philbin (9.8%) and owner Stpehen Ross (9.3%), and negligible toward defensive chief Kevin Coyle (2.2%) and QB Ryan Tannehill (1.5%).

GREG COTE'S TOP 10 NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS FOR 2014:

1aa1a2014resolutions1. Lose 145 pounds.

2. Cut down on cigars by smoking only one at a time.

3. Admit that being Platinum Member of Functional Alcoholics Society may not be good thing.

4. Redouble efforts to recycle. Not cans and bottles. Column ideas.

5. Curb temper issues; limit road-rage incidents to one a month.

6. Do as credit-card machines rightly suggest and Remove Card Quickly.

7. Stop answering Jeff Ireland's frantic draft-day phone calls.

8. Increase blog readership with daily $100,000 giveaways.

9. Engage Le Batard in profanity-laced on-air brawl.

10. Tackle terrorism.

What y'all got planned?

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